Uganda, affectionately known as the Pearl of Africa, is making strides to become East Africa’s premier tech hub. A significant investor summit was held, led by Dr. Monica Musenero, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation. President Yoweri Museveni’s presence and announcement of a $150 million science and technology fund, along with a decade-long tax break for innovative firms, underscore the government’s commitment to tech development.
David Gonahasa, the founder of Tripesa and a vocal advocate for Uganda’s investment appeal, challenged the gathered investors with a direct question: “Why aren’t you investing in Uganda?” The summit featured a notable panel of investors, including Uwem Uwemakpan from Launch Africa, Tobi Oke of V8 Capital, Nela Duke Ekpenyong of Ingressive, Ryosuke Yamawaki from Verod Kepple Capital Africa, and Eric Osiakwan of Chanzo Capital. Also present were Yewande Odumosu from Hoaq Capital, Ruby Nimkar, Kunmi Demuren from Greenhouse Capital, and around 200 other attendees.
Despite these investors managing over 400 companies, only two investments are in Uganda. Tobi Oke attributed this to the country’s low profile among investors, while Eric Osiakwan emphasised the role of local investors in taking the lead. Dr. Musenero was seen actively taking notes during the discussions.
Post-panel, Dr Musenero expressed her ambition to position Uganda as the region’s top investment destination, emphasising her approach to “listen and capture.”
This initiative began even before the summit, with the seeds planted during a Ugandan delegation’s visit to the GITEX conference in Marrakech earlier in May 2023. Gonahasa recalled Dr. Musenero’s directive to emulate such events in Uganda.
While this is a positive beginning, it’s just a fraction of what the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovations envisions. “We might not start perfectly, but our goal is to find the best approach,” Dr. Musenero told the audience.
An investor stopping by from Rwanda, Uganda’s rival and the host of Norrsken Africa Week, noted that first-time events like these are rarely flawless. Uganda can look to Rwanda’s success, like Paystack’s recent beta launch and Flutterwave’s establishment of an East African hub in Kigali, for inspiration.
However, the conversation about how startups should approach smaller markets like Rwanda and Uganda is for another time. Ultimately, Uganda’s entry into this sector is a welcome competition in the region. While it might be tempting to compare it to Kenya, Uganda’s unique contributions will become increasingly clear in the coming months and years.